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City real estate audit done properly, consultant tells council

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The head of the consulting team that produced the scathing audit on Winnipeg’s real estate transactions defended the final report in an appearance at council this morning.

Mark Single, of EY consulting, dismissed concerns raised by Mayor Sam Katz and others that the audit is flawed because several individuals were not interviewed.

"We relied on facts, file documentation and responses from (planning and property department) staff," Single told councillors, adding it wasn’t necessary to interview former CAO Phil Sheegl, local developer Sandy Shindleman, or any other outside individuals involved in the real estate deals they examined.

Single and other key members of EY’s audit team are the focus of today’s special council meeting, which will deal with the audit and its 17 recommendations to overhaul administrative procedures as they pertain to real estate transactions.

Council ordered the independent audit in 2012, calling for a review of relevant real estate transactions.

The EY team reviewed 33 transactions dating back to 2007 and concluded there had been repeated breaches of procedures and policies.

Single spent about 45 minutes this morning summarizing the audit findings and explaining to councillors how they conducted their work.

The meeting adjourned for lunch and resumes at 1 p.m.

In response to Mayor Sam Katz’s repeated attempts to dismiss the EY report as unreliable and not an audit, Single said his team complied with all the terms of council’s request.

"For clarity, it was an audit of the City of Winnipeg’s real estate processes, procedures and policies, carried out in accordance with an appropriate auditing framework," Single said, adding the 13-member EY team included accredited appraisers, accountants and a fraud expert.

In response to questioning from Coun. John Orlikow, Single said what the EY team uncovered was "troubling and concerning."

Coun. Brian Mayes said during the noon break that he accepts Single’s explanations for the EY’s approach, adding he doesn’t believe that failing to interview some former employees in any way undermines the validity of the audit.

However, Coun. Harvey Smith told reporters he believes that Sheegl and Shindleman, whose firm benefited from select treatment by city staff, should have been interviewed.

Smith said he doubts any good will come from today’s meeting unless council decides to terminate some senior administrators, singling out acting CAO Deepak Joshi and planning director Barry Thorgrimson as two senior staffers who should be held responsible for the audit findings.

 

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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